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John Adams was sure we'd all celebrate July 2nd, not July 4th

John Adams: so close, but so far.
John Adams: so close, but so far.
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Phil Edwards is a senior producer for the Vox video team.

On July 3, 1776, John Adams wrote an excited letter to his wife, Abigail Adams. In it, he predicted the joyous celebrations of American Independence Day, including the parties:

It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other

Yes, before the United States had triumphed in the Revolutionary War, John Adams almost perfectly predicted how we'd celebrate the holiday more than 200 years later. He got almost everything right.

Except the date.

At the bottom of the second page of the letter, he made a pronouncement:

John Adams placed his bets on July 2.

John Adams placed his bets on July 2.

Massachusetts Historical Society

In case you don't read Founding Father, it says:

But the Day is past. The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha in the History of America.

That's right. July 2nd.

So why the confusion? Behind closed doors, the Second Continental Congress voted for independence on July 2. But the signing ceremony for the Declaration of Independence didn't happen until July 4. Because July 4 appears on the famous document, that date became the one we celebrate as Independence Day.

But wait until you suggest that July 2nd replace July 4th. Many historians believe the Declaration of Independence wasn't complete until the final draft was fully signed on August 2. So you may want to save your fireworks a little longer.